Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My top 10 picture books

A few weeks ago, my writing group was in our usual deep discussions about our manuscripts when some how (I don't quite remember) we got on the subject of the book Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown.

Crystal, whose blog is here, had mentioned how she was not a fan of Where the Wild Things Are and had written about it as such, much to the ire of several people. That opened up a conversation about our favorite picture books.

I have to admit I hadn't thought much about what constituted a favorite picture book. There are certainly many, MANY things that could cause one to qualify a picture book to be in their "Top 10" (with longevity not necessarily being the most important one) but I guess it all depends on what your point of reference is.

So here are my top 10 picture books (and my reasons why):

10. Martha Speaks by Susan Meddaugh - This one makes my list because the first time I saw it in the bookstore, the colorful cover somehow made me open it. And what I found inside made me laugh out loud. I bought it right then and there and saved it for my own kids.

9. In The Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak - This is a book from my childhood. I have to admit when I found it years later with the intention of reading it to my own kids, I found the story (and pictures) to be a bit bizarre. But my kids, especially my youngest, loved it just as much as I did.

8. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day - by Judith Viorst and Ray Cruz - This is another from my childhood, and it still makes me smile whenever I read it. It always reminds me that no matter how bad things get, there's always tomorrow.

7. Pinkerton, Behave! by Steven Kellogg - My love for this book is two-fold. I grew up loving Steven Kellogg's books, and when I when through school to get my teaching credential, this was one of the first books I read to my 1st graders. They loved it so much, they asked me if there were more . . . and sure enough I found Steven's other Pinkerton books: A Rose for Pinkerton and Prehistoric Pinkerton. Although the original is still my favorite!

6. Oh, Were They Ever Happy! by Peter Spier - This is another book from my childhood that I brought with me to 1st grade. There's something about the bright watercolor paintings Peter Spier uses and the mere idea of a family of children painting a house for their parents and being so proud of the outcome!

5. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney - Words cannot describe how much I love this book. One of the few picture books that can make me cry . . .

4. Rolie Polie Olie by William Joyce - My oldest son originally received this as a Christmas present but it went from child to child to child. It's catchy rhyme and rhythm makes it an easy-to-memorize book. But my appreciation for it didn't come until I ended up in the ER with my then 3-year-old youngest son. The doctor was getting ready to stitch up a huge gash in his head when he told me, "Tell him a story". My mind went blank until I said, "Way up high in the rolie polie sky . . ." and my son answered, "is a little round planet of a really swell guy."

3. The Grumpy Ladybug / The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle - I will never be able to think of these two books without thinking about my daughter and myself. The Grouchy Ladybug for her and The Hungry Caterpillar for me. I also have a HUGE appreciation for these books as I truly believe they helped to open up my daughter's artistic eyes. I will always love Eric Carle for that.

2. Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell - I have two favorite memories of this book. The first was when I received my first copy of Clifford from a book order when I was in 1st grade. The other was when I found a copy of Clifford in the 1st grade classroom I was teaching in and realized I wanted to write for children . . . it was all because of Clifford.

1. Goodnight Moon / Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise Brown, Clement Hurd and Felicia Bond - I will forever love these books for giving me hours and hours of bonding time with all three of my children.

Now, I realize that many of you out there have your own favorites, so obviously this list is VERY subjective. However, I do have a few additional books that I need to give an honorable mention to, and would recommend to ANYONE:

The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash by Trinka Hakes Noble and Steven Kellogg
Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
Pete's a Pizza by William Steig
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
Emily by Michael Bedard and Barbara Cooney
and ANY Max and Ruby books by Rosemary Wells (especially Bunny Mail and Max's Dragon Shirt)

So what are your favorites?


  1. Hey - I see you cheating there a little bit by doubling up! It's all good. I'm finding it hard to choose, as well.

    The grumpy ladybug? I gotta check that one out!

  2. Great list Lisa!
    For me it is any Patricia Polocco(even tho' I cry my eyes out reading them, Sarah knows what a push over I am for a touching passage), Eric Carle is one of my heros as well, and The Run Away Bunny was a favorite I told often when I was doing professional storytelling because I developed hand motions to teach it to children to re-tell to otheres and it is such a lovely message about a mother's love for her child. I taught it once to mothers in prison in a parenting course... but that's another story.

  3. Crystal, I didn't think I was cheating because they are from the same author and my feeling about them were the same. And Cristy, my most vivid memory about Eric Carle was Sarah asking me (at 5 yrs old) how Eric Carle made his pictures. She was absolutely fascinated by him. I told her to ask Mrs. Cooke! lol!!